On October 28, the Episcopal Church Dioceses of Massachusetts will vote on a new system of marriage for the denomination. The new system would mean that Episcopal clergy would no longer have the power to marry anyone. Rather, they’d only be able to bless any marriage sanctioned by the state. If the new system passes, it would become effective in January 2008. The civil and religious ceremonies could both occur in the church, but would require a justice of the peace or clergy from another denomination to legally marry the couple — then the Episcopal priest would bless them. This system is currently in place for gay and lesbian couples at Episcopal churches and is often practiced by many denominations in Europe .
“This resolution is for us in the Episcopal Church, but I think it will have ramifications for our brethren in other denominations, by raising questions about our acting as agents of the state,” said Rev. Robert G. Windsor, a sponsor of the resolution. Windsor said the real issue behind this resolution is the balance of separation between church and state. His main hope is that, if the church stopped officiating marriages, couples seeking a religious ceremony would be doing so as an actual reflection of faith, rather than just “getting a church wedding.”